After being unveiled in the latest Fall event, there was a lot of information to digest about the upcoming iPhone 12 lineup. Not only are four new devices on the way, but it seems that Apple is taking the “Pro” moniker a bit more serious than in years past.
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With devices ranging from a minuscule 5.4-inches and going all the way up to a gargantuan 6.7-inches, the iPhone 12 lineup covers all of the bases. Between new and improved cameras, an all-new (and refreshingly exciting) design overall, and the new A14 Bionic chip, this is going to be the biggest iPhone upgrade in years.
iPhone 12 Pro Max re-takes the “best smartphone camera” crown
Throughout the presentation, there were a lot of emphases placed on the camera capabilities for all four iPhone 12 models. But there was an additional focus on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. So what’s so special about these new cameras and why should you consider throwing your old DSLR off to the side?
What’s special about the cameras?
So on paper, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between the iPhone 12 Pro and the 12 Pro Max. But once you start diving a little bit deeper, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Starting off with the primary sensor, this is the largest camera sensor ever used in an iPhone, despite being rated at 12MP in resolution. The larger sensor allows for your iPhone 12 Pro Max to capture more light than ever, which is how the Night Mode performance is claimed to be 87% better than the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
It seems that the secondary wide-angle is the same between the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max, bringing us to the new and improved 12MP telephoto lens. The iPhone 12 Pro Max sports a longer and slower telephoto lens, which comes in at a 65mm-equivalent with an aperture of f/2.2. Comparatively, the 12 Pro sports a 52mm-equivalent telephoto sensor with an aperture of f/2.0. But Apple intentionally slowed down the telephoto lens in the 12 Pro Max.
Apple claims that the longer lens and slower aperture allows for “classic portrait style” images, which may seem odd considering that 62mm is not the traditional portrait framing length. This enhanced lens also has the added benefit of offering up to a 5X optical zoom, compared to the 4x zoom offered by the 12 Pro.
The next trick up Apple’s sleeve is actually the same for both the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. Smart HDR 3 has arrived, which is Apple’s computational photography method. This is achieved thanks to the inclusion of the improved Neural Engine sensor found on the A14X Bionic chipset.
Previously, the neural engine was primarily used for identifying and enhancing portraits and pictures of people, but the new iPhones take it up a notch. Smart HDR 3 can now also be used with machine learning to apply adjustments to the scenery in the photo, along with helping to offer improved low-light performance.
ProRaw was also introduced, which moves away from JPG or those annoying HEIC images which are great for editing, but not great for sharing. ProRaw offers more flexibility due to the amount of data that is retained throughout the image processing. This offers vastly superior image editing, which when paired with the likes of Lightroom or the built-in photo editor, can make for some amazing pictures.
Again, on paper, the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max may not be impressive with the video recording. Both of these devices are capable of recording in 4K quality at 60 fps. However, the improved camera sensors will help produce better video in low-light situations.
The biggest story here is the fact that these are the first smartphone cameras capable of recording Dolby Vision video. This is a form of HDR which uses specific metadata to provide accurate color and brightness levels in each frame. Traditionally, this was reserved for cinema-quality cameras, but Apple has brought Dolby Vision HDR recording to the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. Unfortunately, while Apple announced Dolby Vision recording is coming, it won’t be available on launch day. And it’s not available at all on the iPhone 12 Mini or the standard iPhone 12.
Furthermore, Apple is making it possible for you to quickly and easily share these videos once they’ve been processed. With the help of AirPlay 2, you can send the video to any compatible screen and enjoy your personal videos in the highest quality possible.
The Android smartphone market is flooded with solid cameras and great hardware, some of which are simply hampered by poor software optimization. But a few of these Android smartphones have overtaken the iPhone 11 lineup as the best smartphone camera. Here’s a look at who Apple looks to blow past starting in November.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
Samsung continues to put out a fantastic combination of hardware and camera modules with its flagship devices. The company took some of the pitfalls of the Galaxy S20 (autofocus and improved them. There are a total of three cameras on the Note 20 Ultra. Including a 108MP wide-angle lens, 12MP Ultra Wide lens, and a 12MP telephoto sensor. This makes for a pretty impressive combination and one that instantly puts the Note 20 Ultra at the forefront for the best camera on a smartphone.
So the Pixel 5 is not technically available just yet. But it will be available for purchase ahead of the iPhone 12 Pro Max. For the last few years, Google’s Pixel line has been touted as the best smartphone camera. Namely because of the Night Mode and HDR capabilities. While we have not gotten our paws on the Pixel 5 yet, there’s no reason to believe that this phone won’t still produce great images. The only potential downside is the removal of the neural engine processor that Google featured on the Pixel 4. Which could mean that images don’t look as good this go ’round.
Sony Xperia 5 II
In case you weren’t aware, Sony is the primary maker for many of the camera sensors used by all smartphones. However, Sony devices are never in the upper echelons of “best smartphone cameras” due to subpar software optimization. That may change with the Sony Xperia 5 II which just recently launched. Three cameras are found on the back, giving users the flexibility they need to capture fantastic video footage and pictures. We’re just hoping the software has been improved.
Andrew is a freelance writer based on the East Coast of the US.
He has written for a variety of sites over the years, including iMore, Android Central, Phandroid, and a few others. Now, he spends his days working for an HVAC company, while moonlighting as a freelance writer at night.